How to manage your currency when studying abroad

If you’re heading abroad to study, you’ll need to budget and manage your money well. You actually need to do an even better job than you do at home. After all, you don’t want to be stuck in another country without any money.

What’s the best way to manage your money when you’re abroad for a few months or years though? Bearing in mind that you’ll have a couple of larger tuition and accommodation bills to pay, along with your day to day spending.

Well here’s our guide to some of the best (and worst) ways to manage your currency when studying abroad.


When a bank account isn’t your best option

Depending on where you are heading, it can be surprisingly difficult to set up a local bank account. The fact that you aren’t a permanent resident and don’t have a permanent address can hinder you. It would also take you a while to get set up – so you could be studying for a good 1 or 2 weeks before you actually have a debit card and can get spending.

For most students, it’s just not worth the hassle.

One group that it can work for are those that have managed to bag themselves a working visa. If you have however chosen to get yourself a working visa, so that you can earn an income whilst you study, a local bank account may be an easier way to manage your wages.

If you do choose to open a local account – make sure you have a way to manage your money before the account is set up. And if you transfer an opening balance to the account, do your homework on international payment exchange rates beforehand.


Hidden fees and unfavourable rates

Imitating the way you spend in the UK will come at a cost. Your debit and credit cards can come with some costly fees when you’re spending in a foreign currency. And you’re almost certain to get what we’d consider to be a very unfavourable rate.

As with any foreign exchange, compare like for like rates between providers to see how good a rate you are getting. And don’t fall for the old “zero commission” trick either.

Before you use any service, make sure you check all the fees and charges involved. What is their foreign exchange fee? Do they charge a transaction fee or a “processing” fee? Don’t get caught out by hidden fees!


Stick to card

A Chip & PIN secure card is of course far safer and more convenient than cash. So you’re right in thinking that a card is a great way to manage your money when studying abroad.

Instead of getting an unfavourable rate from your bank though, consider ordering yourself a prepaid currency card. These cards usually come with far better exchange rates and lower fees for spending abroad (because that’s what they are made for).

A FairFX Currency Card comes with award-winning exchange rates. It’s chip and PIN secure, with no rip-off fees. And you can use it wherever MasterCard cards are welcome (in over 210 countries).

A prepaid currency card also makes it far easier to stick to budget. You can transfer money to your card as and when you need it. So your spending can’t get too carried away when you’re adventuring in your new surroundings, go on nights out with new friends or…you know…when you’re buying books for your course.

You can even get your family to top it up for you if you’re running a little low on funds.


Take a back-up option

Whichever way you decide to manage your money, make sure you also have a back-up option. Just in case your primary option gets lost or stolen.

If you choose to take a FairFX Currency Card with you, you can get a Family & Friends card which links directly to your primary FairFX Card. If you lose your card whilst you’re away, you can ensure you still have access to funds.


And for those bigger payments…

You don’t want to be paying your tuition or accommodation bills with a debit, credit or prepaid currency card.

Don’t default to using your bank or high street Bureaux de Change for these payments as you could be ripped off. Do some research before you go and see if you can make your payments when the exchange rate is in your favour.

FairPay is a simple and hassle-free way to make international payments. The service offers market leading exchange rates, no transfer fees or commission and access to a secure, simple online system.

Discover the true cost of studying abroad at one of the top 200 universities in the world, as ranked by the new Times Higher Education World University Rankings, with the FairFX Study Abroad Cost Calculator.

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